Clemson head coach Dabo Swinney walked into the team room of the WestZone complex Tuesday morning and announced to everyone, "Welcome to the party!"
The party will come to a head Saturday night when the Tigers take on the Notre Dame Fighting Irish in a game that has become the hottest ticket in the state of South Carolina in the last five years with ticket prices averaging $320 crushing the previous record of $279 two years ago when the Tigers opened the season against Georgia.
"I've had people calling me I haven't seen in 20 years looking for tickets, ‘Hey man you got some tickets? I just need 5'...I have had people asking me all week long and my response has been, ‘I couldn't get Jesus tickets," Swinney joked Tuesdayduring his press conference.
With all of the distractions, ticket requests and increased media surrounding this week for Swinney and the Tigers there is still a very talented team waiting to throw a damper on the party atmosphere Saturday night.
"Notre Dame is a great football team. This is a team that, I think, is complete on both sides of the ball. We've talked a lot about them in the last week or so," Swinney said. "They're physical, they're disciplined, they're fast, they're well coached and offensively they are complete."
"They've got a great offensive line, great skill and they just keep coming up with quarterbacks. It's unbelievable the guys that they have got playing quarterback and that Kiser (DeShone) kid has stepped right in and done a tremendous job they haven't missed a beat. The running back is averaging 8.1 yards per carry...they are just a complete group."
With this being the first matchup in 36 years between the two team, the last coming in 1979 with the Tigers winning 16-10 in South Bend, Swinney understands that his Tiger team may not understand fully the history of who they will be lining up against Saturday night.
"They don't know who Muhammad Ali is. They don't have a clue, they really don't. They obviously know Notre Dame. If you live in this country, because of their brand and the media, everybody hears of Notre Dame. But if you are talking about the history--they probably don't know a whole lot of it. Probably not many of them know that Joe Montana played at Notre Dame. Many of them don't know that Dwight Clark played at Clemson. That's just the world we live in with the young people today."
For Swinney, unlike his players, his understanding of who Notre Dame is started early on as a boy in Alabama.
"Back when I was a kid in Alabama...that's when I first remember Notre Dame. I had a good friend named Keith YoungI did grow up with and he was the biggest Notre Dame fan you've ever met in your life, so I learned a lot about him and I learned to not like Notre Dame...Four Horsemen, Knute Rockne, and ‘Win one for the gipper' and all that stuff is what I grew up on."
With the Tigers in the spotlight Swinney the opportunity to be the best is in front of his team this week. So what is the message the head coach is sending to his team this week? Very simple, focus on what you can control and enjoy the ride.
"For me it's all about having the opportunity to be the best and we have that opportunity at Clemson. I feel our program is at a point now where we just have to continue to move forward and I tell people all of the time just have fun and enjoy it. Enjoy the journey that we're on. I don't sit around and worry or fret over whether we're going to win a game or anything like that. I just focus on the things that we can control."
Higher Power Called Upon?
Coach Swinney took a second to mention the historic visit of Pope Francis' visit to the United States saying, "I do think it's unfair that they brought the Pope into town. Just in time for the Clemson game. I do think that's a low blow. But we do have Tim Bourret (Clemson Assitant Athletic Director/ Football Communications who graduated from Notre Dame in 1977)who's been on the winning bus both games. When he was at Notre Dame in 1977 and then up there in 1979, I guess he was at Clemson at that time. Hopefully, we're hoping Tim can trump the Pope. So good luck."